September 16, 2023 Russia-Ukraine news

By Amarachi Orie, Tori B. Powell, Thom Poole and Matt Meyer, CNN

Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT) September 16, 2023
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1:14 p.m. ET, September 16, 2023

US gives Ukraine industrial-sized 3D printer for repairing trucks, weapons and equipment

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

Last month, the US provided Ukraine with an industrial-sized 3D printer that can be used to print spare equipment parts that may break down or require maintenance, according to Bill LaPlante, a US under secretary of defense.

The printer is the size of a truck, LaPlante told the Center for New American Security, and “it is changing the ball game” of how quickly Ukraine's military is able to repair trucks, rocket systems and other weaponry or equipment provided by the West over the last 18 months. 

Ukrainian techs are also “remarkable at tele-maintenance,” LaPlante said, which involves US officials helping them repair things remotely — a vital strategy, given the US’ footprint in the country is largely limited to the embassy in Kyiv.

The US official says Ukraine completed training on the printer within the last week.

1:03 p.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Russian attacks kill 2 civilians in Kharkiv region, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Radina Gigova

Russian attacks killed two civilians in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine on Saturday, according to the head of the region's military administration.

A man and a woman died when their car was hit by a Russian missile in the village of Strilecha, Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. Another man was wounded and hospitalized in the village, which sits just outside Ukraine's border with Russia.

A separate attack on the village Petropavlivka, southeast of Kharkiv city, wounded a 23-year-old man Saturday, Syniehubov said.

And earlier today, the regional leader said five civilians were wounded by a Russian missile attack on Kharkiv city.

School classes have been moved into shelters set up in the city's metro stations, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a television interview. Additional metro stations will also be equipped so that more students can study there, he said.

Kharkiv is Ukraine's second-largest city.

12:48 p.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Pope's peace envoy returns from Ukraine talks in China

From CNN's Barbie Nadeau and Radina Gigova

Pope Francis' Ukraine peace envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi returned from a three-day trip to Beijing on Friday, calling on all sides to participate in negotiations that could bring Russia's war to an end.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, Zuppi said, the "ball is not only in Ukraine’s court."

"Everyone must play," the peace envoy said, according to the Vatican News service. "Ukraine has already engaged and presented its proposals. In reality, everyone must participate in the pursuit of peace."

During a visit to Russia in June, the cardinal met with the Kremlin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and Maria Llova-Belova, the government official at the center of an alleged scheme to forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.

When it comes to pursuing peace diplomatically, the “ball is not only in Ukraine’s court,"

Earlier in June, Zuppi also traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian officials. 

The peace envoy said efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine have received “considerable attention from the Chinese government."

Some context: Ukraine and its Western allies have long expressed hope that China and its leader Xi Jinping, a self-described friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, could play a role in pushing Moscow toward peace.

So far, however, its claims of neutrality and a vaguely-worded 12-point position paper on a "political settlement" for the conflict — which failed to acknowledge Russia invaded Ukraine's territory — have been met with skepticism.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long expressed concerns about negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and pointed to his past record of reneging on agreements.

“When you want to have a compromise or a dialogue with somebody, you cannot do it with a liar,” Zelensky told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview in Kyiv last week.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for not coming to the negotiating table.

CNN's Nectar Gan and Simone McCarthy contributed reporting to this post.

12:39 p.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Poland, Slovakia and Hungary will defy EU and extend ban on Ukrainian grain imports

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy

Workers harvest a field of wheat in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on July 4.
Workers harvest a field of wheat in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on July 4. Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Poland, Hungary and Slovakia will defy the European Union and extend a temporary ban placed on Ukrainian grain imports, in a move likely to anger the bloc’s leadership.

On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting restrictive measures placed on the export of Ukrainian grain to a select number of countries in Eastern Europe.

The temporary measure, adopted May 2, banned the import of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to counter the risk of farmers in these countries being undercut by a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain.

The European Commission said in a statement that it was lifting the ban because Ukraine had committed to export control measures that would prevent any further disruption to neighboring economies.

While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejoiced, his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki did not welcome the EU’s decision.

“We will extend this ban despite the European Union’s disagreement,” Prime Minister Morawiecki said, according to Polish state news agency PAP. “We will do it because it is in the interests of the Polish farmer,” he added.

A Polish government spokesperson formally announced the government’s plan to extend the ban on Ukrainian grain imports later Friday.

Hungary has also opted to retain the ban, with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban announcing his plans on Saturday to “take matters into our own hands.”

"Ukrainian agricultural products destined for Africa are flooding Central European markets," Orban stressed. "The bureaucrats in Brussels are turning a blind eye to the problems ... of European farmers once again, so Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are extending the ban on imports on a national basis."

Slovakia’s Ministry of Agriculture announced its decision to extend the ban in a Facebook post Friday, citing a need to safeguard Slovakia’s “domestic market.”

More context: European officials have tried to keep Ukrainian grain flowing during Russia's war in Ukraine, fearing widespread famine brought on by blocked ports and sea routes to Africa and the Middle East.

The EU took steps to lift duties on grain from Ukraine and ease its distribution to global markets, but those moves sparked protests from farmers elsewhere in Europe, who said the influx of cheap grain hurt them.

The EU convened meetings in search of a compromise before Friday's announcement, and said the decision should satisfy the needs of both sides.

Now the decision by the three countries to apply their own measures is expected to anger EU officials.

Earlier Friday, European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis called on countries to “work along the lines” of the new agreement and “refrain from unilateral measures” on Ukrainian grain imports.

10:11 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Russian attack wounds at least 5 civilians in Kharkiv, Ukrainian official says

From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Radina Gigova

At least five civilians have been wounded after Russia fired missiles at the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, a regional leader said Saturday.

Moscow's forces used S-300 surface-to-air missiles in the attack, according to Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration. The missiles hit the urban Kholodnohirsky district of Kharkiv, which is Ukraine's second-largest city.

According to preliminary information, none of the civilians suffered life-threatening wounds, Syniehubov said in a Telegram post.

12:34 p.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Merchant ships approach Ukrainian ports for first time since grain deal collapse

From Maria Kostenko and Andrew Carey in Kyiv

The Aroyat approaches a port near Odesa, Ukraine, on September 16.
The Aroyat approaches a port near Odesa, Ukraine, on September 16. Stringer/Reuters 

Two merchant ships approached Ukrainian ports this morning in preparation to collect about 20,000 tons of wheat for Africa and Asia, according to a Ukrainian official.

This would be the first such use of key Black Sea shipping corridors since Russia withdrew from an agreement designed to guarantee safe passage for cargo ships carrying grain.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the ships, Resilient Africa and Aroyat, were headed to Chornomorsk, one of three main ports near the city of Odesa. 

Data from the MarineTraffic website, which tracks shipping movements around the world, at 2 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET), showed the two ships each about 10 miles off Ukraine’s southwest coast. 

Some background: Ukraine announced last month that it was setting up "temporary corridors" for civilian shipping after Russia’s announcement in July it was pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations which provided security guarantees for ships taking Ukrainian grain to world markets. 

Five ships have already used the corridor sailing south from Ukraine’s ports, according to the infrastructure minister, but this is the first such passage in the other direction.

Even though merchant shipping companies have started to use the temporary corridors, Ukraine’s navy has warned "the military threat and mine danger from the Russian Federation remains along all routes."

9:25 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Russian-installed officials are selling Ukrainian properties in Crimea — including Zelensky's

From CNN’s Maria Kostenko and Niamh Kennedy

Russian-installed officials have announced their plans to sell a raft of Ukrainian-owned properties in annexed Crimea, including a property owned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a post on Telegram, Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea Vladimir Konstantinov announced plans to sell 100 “nationalised properties.”

“These are residential premises, including the apartment of the Zelensky couple, sanatorium and resort facilities, retail and commercial facilities,” Konstantinov said on Saturday. 

The Russian installed authorities expect to raise over 800 million rubles ($8.2 million) from the sale of the properties, according to Konstantinov.

Konstantinov, who is the speaker of the Crimean Parliament, said a specially designated commission will continue efforts to “identify the property of Ukrainian oligarchs in Crimea.”

Some context: Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The peninsula's annexation is considered illegitimate by most global powers.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has refocused some of its war efforts on the region, increasing missile and drone strikes on Crimea in an attempt to land both strategic and symbolic blows against Russian forces.

9:51 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

Russia likely boosting missile capacity to target Ukraine over winter, UK says

From CNN's Amarachi Orie

A police officer inspects the remains of a Russian cruise missile in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18.
A police officer inspects the remains of a Russian cruise missile in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 18. Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Russia is "likely able to generate a significant stockpile" of air launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) and there is a "realistic possibility" that it will use them against Ukrainian infrastructure targets, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence said Saturday.

"Between October 2022 and March 2023, Russia focused long-range strikes against Ukraine’s national energy infrastructure," the defense ministry said in the statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Open source reports suggest that since April 2023, ALCM expenditure rates have reduced, while Russian leaders have highlighted efforts to increase the rate of cruise missile production," the defence ministry said.

It concluded, "Russia is therefore likely able to generate a significant stockpile of ALCMs. There is a realistic possibility Russia will again focus these weapons against Ukrainian infrastructure targets over the winter."

Some context: On Wednesday, Ukraine called for tougher and more sophisticated sanctions against Russia following reports that Russia had managed to overcome sanctions and export controls imposed by the West to increase its missile production.

Last winter was cold and dark for many Ukrainians, with Russian forces launching hundreds of missiles and drones at Ukraine's energy infrastructure — seemingly with the aim of breaking the country's power grid — temporarily cutting off electricity, heat and water to millions.

At one point last October, about 40% of normal electrical supply was offline in Ukraine, according to Ukraine’s state power generator, Ukrenergo.

11:57 a.m. ET, September 16, 2023

EU cancels restrictive measures against Ukraine’s agricultural exports 

From CNN's Mariya Knight

An agricultural worker operates a combine during a wheat harvesting in a field in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on July 14, 2023.
An agricultural worker operates a combine during a wheat harvesting in a field in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on July 14, 2023. Stringer/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the European Commission’s decision to cancel restrictive measures against Ukraine’s agricultural exports in his nightly address on Friday. 

“Now, it is important that European unity works on a bilateral level – with the neighbors,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president said the decision was the result of a "lengthy meeting" with government officials and European Union leaders on Friday.

The commission wrote in a statement that Ukraine has agreed to introduce policies, like an export licensing system, within 30 days that will prevent surges of cheap grain from disrupting other European economies. That concern had been the basis of the restrictive measures.

Until then, Ukraine must put in place effective export control measures to "prevent any market distortions in neighboring member states," the commission said, adding that Kyiv is expected to submit an "action plan" to the EU by September 18.

“The European Commission will refrain from imposing any restrictions as long as the effective measures by Ukraine are in place and fully working,” the statement read. 

Key context: European officials have tried to keep Ukrainian grain flowing during the war, but face complaints that they are undercutting farmers elsewhere in Europe.

In May, the EU adopted a temporary measure that banned wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seed originating in Ukraine from being exported to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, after those countries raised concerns over the way a bottleneck of cheap Ukrainian grain was affecting their local economies.